The Obama Administration’s Indifference to Genocide in Syria

Samantha Power, who has served in the Obama administration in various roles since its inception, and is now the ambassador to the UN, made her name by calling on governments, and the American government in particular, to intervene actively to stop genocides from taking place abroad. Yet so far, the administration has done nothing to prevent genocide in Syria. Michael Totten writes:

We’ve already received a few early warnings that Assad might be inclined toward genocidal behavior. The U.S. government estimates that the regime killed 1,429 people with chemical weapons in Ghouta outside Damascus on August 21, 2013, and a few dozen more in Aleppo earlier that year. . . .

Other warnings of potentially genocidal behavior have been ongoing. The government and its local allies—Revolutionary Guard Corps from Iran and Hizballah from Lebanon—have been plausibly accused of ethnically cleansing Sunni Arabs around the core cities of Damascus, Homs, and Latakia.

There have been plenty of warnings, one after another. . . . Ethnic cleansing, though, isn’t the same thing as genocide. Theoretically, an area could be ethnically cleansed without a single fatality. . . . In practice, [however], modern armies that commit ethnic cleansing usually commit genocide. At the very least, it’s a warning that genocide may be coming. Whether or not Assad has crossed the line yet is debatable. . . .

But there’s another army doing grisly work in Syria that has clearly crossed the line and is unambiguously guilty of genocide. No ideology in the world right now is more inherently genocidal than that of Islamic State.

Read more at Tower

More about: Barack Obama, Bashar al-Assad, Genocide, ISIS, Samantha Power, Syrian civil war

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy